Greg Lehman got excited about craft spirits while he was playing professional volleyball in Switzerland. The local distilleries and their supporters inspired him. He was equally inspired by the all of the support that the community in his hometown Columbus, Ohio put into its local brewpubs. “I figured if people support the beer,” says Lehman, “they’d definitely support spirits.”
So Lehman and his business partner Dave Rigo went to Chicago, where the masters at Koval Distillery taught them how to make spirits and sold them their still.
Lehman and Rigo opened Watershed Distillery in 2010 and started making Four Peel Gin, named for the four kinds of citrus peels that compliment its juniper, cassia, Jamaica pepper and coriander infusions. They also make 100% corn vodka that has more than one million kernels of corn in every batch.
Lehman distills his vodka from Midwest corn sourced from Ohio and neighboring states, and he attributes its light texture to its quadruple distillation. “Line up ten gins and they will all taste different,” says Lehman. “Vodka differences are more subtle. It takes a discerning palate to distinguish vodka’s flavor.”
He makes a good point that no two vodkas, especially small-batch vodkas, are the same. “It’s all about the ingredients and the process,” he says.
While Watershed’s products are certainly derived from quality ingredients and created from a handcrafted process, for Greg, distilling is less about the ingredients and the process, and more about the people involved. Upon opening, Watershed Distillery quickly gained the local support that he admired in the brewing scene. Being part of the Columbus community and creating experiences for his patrons, he says, is what it’s all about.
“I love it when I’m out and someone orders a cocktail with Watershed spirits,” he says. “I love seeing someone jog by in a Watershed t-shirt.”
Lehman named the distillery to represent his commitment to his community. He wanted make a product that would enhance the “watershed moments” in his customers’ lives. Our celebrations certainly now taste better — we hope yours do, too. Cheers.